Hardening fixers: pros & cons?

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I've also posted this question to photo.net, so please excuse the duplication, but I'd like to get as many responses as possible. I would appreciate a discussion of the pros and cons of using a hardening fixer, since I've read conflicting advice. I shoot Tri-X Pro 4x5, and develop in a Jobo expert drum, in D-76, at about 70 degrees. In particular, I'm wondering if the hardening fixer enhances the durability of the neg only when it's wet, or after it's dry too? Thanks.

-- Gregory Bell (gbell@uclink2.berkeley.edu), November 10, 1998


In forty years of photography, I've tried alot. From that experience, I've found that negatives need hardner for protection - both wet and dry. However, when it comes to printing, it's a whole other story. For printing plastic [RC], I use the hardner, but for fiber-base I don't. If I'm doing exhibition printing - always on fiber - I prefer good, old Kodak dry hypo WITHOUT hardner, 'cuz it tones much better. Albest.

-- Dick Fish (dfish@javanet.com), November 10, 1998.

If you develop large format B&W negatives by hand in trays it can be very easy to inadvertantly scrape the films against each other, especially when Hypo-clearing and washing large batches together. This can cause scratching of unhardened emulsions. I used to use fixers for film with no hardener but always had a certain percentage of damaged negs. Murphy's law dictates that the only negatives you scratch are the ones you really want to print!! Using a hardening fixer has almost completely eliminated this problem. The downside is that fixing times are increased somewhat, especially with rapid fixers, but this is a small price to pay for consistatntly good-quality negatives. With drum processing and careful handling, perhaps you can work without the hardener. If you have no problem with scratches, go ahead. Careful storage and handling after drying should keep the films from being damaged dry. It's the wet time when they are most susceptible to scratches. With prints, a final non-hardening fixing bath is necessary if you wish to tone. Hope this helps, ;^D>

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), November 13, 1998.

I always use a hardening fixer for negatives. There's really no reason not to. However, my understanding of hardening fixers is slightly different from that of a previous post. Hardener, if I am correct, only protects the negative while it is wet. Once dry, hardener offers no benefit over a dry non-hardened negative. I may be wrong about this. It's an obvious fact, but keep in mind that during your pre-soak(if you include that step), development, and stop, the negative is not hardened, so excercise extra caution during those steps.

Like the poster above, I always use a hardener with RC prints (mostly proofs). For fiber, I use either a normal or mildly hardening fixer for the first fix, but I always use plain hypo for the second fix. This is simply the classic method that Ansel Adams practiced which is described in THE PRINT. You could also use plain hypo for the first fix. Using non-hardening fixer for the second fix not only is better for toning, but it decreases wash time.

-- Tom Johnston (tajohnston@lucent.com), November 25, 1998.

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